December 06, 2010

Wikileaks: Can we get one thing straight?

I could argue for hours about Wikileaks. I may well write at length about them in the future. But for now a short entry to just sort one thing out.

Wikileaks didn’t steal anything. They obtained and published stolen documents online. The only thing they actually do, other than host them, is go through to redact any information which they believe could cause loss of life.

That’s all they do.

Der Spiegel, The New York Times and The Guardian also published subsets of that same information. The only difference between them and Wikileaks is that those papers actually profited from revealing that information (in that having the scoop on the leaks helps sell more papers) whereas Wikileaks is a non-profit.

So by all means, if you want to condemn Wikileaks then that’s up to you. But don’t have double standards here. You want to prosecute Assange, then you should want to prosecute the Editor of The Guardian too.

Of course, people are a lot more reluctant to suggest that, as we have a small thing called freedom of the press which is pretty key to the whole nature of democracy. The same people that defend that right will try and make Wikileaks out to be an exception to the rule. Because they’re online, and because they’re not out to make a profit. Because they’re not playing the game.

That’s why this is dangerous. If we establish a double-standard now, that online publishing doesn’t get the same protections as traditional newspapers, then we’re totally screwed in the future when all publishing moves online.

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